Dish gardens are a snap to assemble

February 10, 2007|By Kathy Van Mullekom | Kathy Van Mullekom,Daily Press

Professional gardener Angela Carcich can whip together a dish garden in five minutes.

You can, too.

The supplies to create a dish garden - a miniature landscape in a container - are relatively simple. You need a tabletop-type container, growing media and several small plants that like similar growing conditions.

Your container should have drainage holes, so plants don't sit in soggy soil; otherwise, use gravel in the bottom of the container for drainage and let plants dry out between watering.

"Dish gardens are really fun to make," says Carcich, assistant nursery manager at Smithfield Gardens in Suffolk, Va. "Cacti, herbs and small tropical plants can be used to make different kinds."

Here are three ideas for dish gardens you can make to give as gifts for schoolteachers, friends and family - or yourself. You can find the supplies at any garden center.

Kathy Van Mullekom writes for the (Newport News, Va.) Daily Press.

Herbal Helper


Strawberry pot-type herb container (strawberry pots have side holes for plants to grow out of); we used a blue-and-white one that professional gardener Angela Carcich found at a family member's house.

Potting soil

Assorted herbs in 2-inch pots ($2.69 each); we used two pineapple sage, variegated myrtle, rosemary, tricolor sage and chives.


Use planting media to fill the pot halfway.

Plant the side holes first, placing the root ball of the herb into the pot, then gently pulling its foliage through the side hole; we placed rosemary, chives and tricolor sage in the three side holes.

Plant two to three herbs in the top of the container; we placed variegated myrtle between two pineapple sage plants.


About $25

Tropical Touch


14-inch-diameter basket (4 inches deep with plastic liner to waterproof basket)

Gravel to create half-inch layer in plastic liner

Decorative moss

Six small tropical plants from a garden-center greenhouse; we used tricolor acalypha, mint rose variegated geranium, variegated hoya, philodendron, dracaena and Chinese evergreen, all in 4- to 6-inch pots ($2.69-$4.99).


Place the plastic liner in the basket and cover bottom of liner with about a half-inch of small gravel.

Use a potting media (Miracle-Gro Moisture Control works well because it contains Soil Moist capsules to help retain moisture between watering) to partially fill the liner.

Before you place each plant in the liner, remove it from the plastic growing pot and use your hands to gently break roots apart. "This is most important, or the plants will think they are still in the pot and their roots will still grow in a circle," says professional gardener Angela Carcich.

Place your tallest plants in the back, then stagger plant sizes and textures for visual interest.

Finish filling liner with potting media.

Add decorative moss touches to top of potting media and add a pretty bow to accent plant colors.


About $30

Succulent Style


Shallow container large enough to hold three succulents, or cactuses; we used a blue ceramic one.

Small amounts of gravel, sand and potting soil

Three miniature succulents in 2- to 4-inch pots

Two to three small decorative pebbles


Mix the gravel, sand and potting soil to form a planting media that drains well. Use it to fill the container halfway.

Remove plants from their plastic pots and place them in the container. Add planting media as you work.

Once your plants are in place, add more planting media to secure them.

Position your small decorative pebbles.


About $25

Dish Garden Do's

Pick plants in 2- to 4-inch pots that thrive in the same conditions - succulents for dry soil, herbs for sun or tropicals for humid conditions.

Choose a variety of heights, leaf textures and foliage colors.

Strawberry pots, baskets, ceramic and glazed containers and bonsai dishes work great. Liners protect and waterproof baskets. You can plant in a recycled milk jug or 2-liter bottle, then insert it into a pot. Make sure the container is large enough to allow future root growth.

Use all-purpose liquid fertilizer and follow directions on the label for feeding plants.

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